Just the facts, Ma'am!

The most recent flurry of debate in the US surrounds the commutation of the sentence of Bradley (a.k.a. Chelsea) Manning, a soldier sentenced to 35 years for passing on military secrets, but who has only served 7 of those years. The argument behind the commutation, I assume, was not that the crime was not serious, but that the sentence was excessive. But to some, 35 years was not enough and Manning’s execution as a traitor would have been even more appropriate.

The debate will rage on.

But we often wonder if our justice system is indeed just. We can cite all kinds of examples. We wonder if the frail hands into which the meting out of justice is entrusted, are adequate for the task.

Justice became the theme for Abraham in the latter part of Genesis 18.

Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25).

These were the words of a nervous Abraham when he discovered the Almighty’s intention of bringing judgment down on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. His nephew, Lot, lived in Sodom and though he might have been disappointed by Lot’s choice of residence, Abraham wished no harm to come to his family. The patriarch pleaded for the lives of the innocent of these two cities. He hardly needed to remind God to do what was right, but sometimes in our anxiety, like Abraham, we forget who we are speaking to!

This conversation between God and Abraham in Genesis 18 is fascinating on many levels. One of those is this statement: “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin is so grievous, that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as that outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know” (18:20, 21).

My first question is, who did this outcry come from? I can only imagine that Lot was its source since he was living in Sodom and is described in 2 Peter 2:7 this way: “…he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)”.

But why would the Almighty, Who knows everything, say that He was going down to the cities to check out the information He had received?

Benson comments: “Not as if there were any thing concerning which God is in doubt; but he is pleased thus to express himself after the manner of men, and to show that he ascertains the criminal’s guilt before he passes sentence.

God gives to Abraham, and to us, a lesson in jurisprudence, i.e. before we pass judgment we need to be sure of the facts of the case.

Of course, the Judge of the earth will do right—only He has all the facts. But He understands our tendency to “rush to judgment,” skipping the facts, skewing the facts, or not bothering to even discover the facts in the first place.

The Almighty was personally illustrating to Abraham the importance of doing the research before making judgment calls.

How wonderful of Him to wrap Himself in this very human garb to teach us how things ought to be done.

Get the facts. God already know them, but we have to work for them.


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